Apr 5, 2022 - Economy

Ready Player DAO raise the latest validation of play-to-earn gaming

a gaming controller

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ready Player DAO (RPD) was valued at $150 million in a new $10.2 million funding round, the latest validation of the play-to-earn gaming model.

Why it matters: The crypto industry has high hopes for Web3 video games to bring lots of new users into digital assets, because people actually get to own the stuff they gather up while playing.

  • "The freedom to transact is the real core value add that blockchain brings," Rich Cabrera, a co-founder of RPD told Axios.

The big picture: Imagine if the gold coins your character finds in the game world could be traded for real coins? That's very much happening now with games like Axie Infinity. That's why it's called "play-to-earn."

How it works: Playing a game in the play-to-earn landscape isn't as simple as turning on the game. You need an in-game asset to play — and those assets are expensive. Very expensive.

  • RPD owns a fleet of high-quality in-game assets represented by NFTs that allow people to access games where they can earn tokens or other NFTs that have real world value.

RPD's business model rests on three pillars:

  • Deployment. It lends that fleet to players that can't afford them and then splits their earnings. RPD typically lets players keep 70% of whatever they find.
  • Content creation. This can be its own revenue center but it also helps build its community, which makes it a powerful ally for new game platforms it invests in. Content includes everything from blogging about how to participate, running tournaments or sponsoring gaming teams.
  • Investment. "Games are looking to bring us to the cap table pretty early on so we can bring our community as well," Cabrera said. RPD has over 10,000 gamers in its community, many of whom are eager to beta-test a new game.

RPD is already splitting earnings with more than 3,000 gamers playing Axie Infinity, Geno Pets, Pegaxy and other games.

  • It just raised $10.2 million, in a round led by The Chernin Group, with participation that included Sterling VC, 1kx, Hashed and ConsenSys Mesh.
  • There were originally 38 members of the DAO when it started with the simple aim of buying some high end characters for the game Axie Infinity. It added 18 more members with this new round.

It's not alone out there. A similar operation, Yield Guild Games, has the backing of Andreessen Horowitz.

Yes, but: The optics of play-to-earn has rubbed some the wrong way, with people in emerging markets grinding away in games as a way to get by.

  • "I think some of the criticism that comes from the Web2 world is somewhat justified, but I don't think we're at the final stage," Cabrera said. "The play-to-earn, 'play a game and earn a bunch of money' model, is not sustainable and is going to be going away."
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